Today’s Top 5: February 20, 1972

Fifty years ago today, a Sunday, Philadelphia and its suburbs were digging out of a major Saturday snowstorm that dropped as much as a foot of the white stuff in the region. It wasn’t just snow, either. Rain, ice and sleet also fell, and the wind gusted up to 75mph. (Not that I remember it—I was far, far away in a land where, to little me, 65 degrees Fahrenheit was freezing!) 

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s front page shows a few of the other major stories of the day, including a threatened mutiny on a Liberian freighter that was within Philadelphia’s territorial waters along the Delaware River. According to the article, which sports a Dan Enoch byline, “Police, carrying nightsticks, shotguns, high-powered rifles and carbines, eased their way up the ice-sliced ladders of the 525-foot freighter anchored just north of the Walt Whitman Bridge.” Also of interest: On Saturday, President Nixon departed Hawaii on the semifinal leg of his historic trip to China. Page 3-A offers a handy TV viewing guide that also explains the time difference between Philly and Peking (aka Beijing). This was the age before cable news channels, remember.

This Sunday edition of the Inky was book-thick at 335 pages once the TV Weekly and Today magazines are subtracted, with most pages littered with advertisements. Compare that to today’s (digital) edition which is 72 pages once Parade magazine is subtracted—and set on pages that are four inches smaller. Ads are few and far between, too. That said, many ads then and now have a holiday tie-in. In today’s world, this weekend, they celebrate Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday (and off-day from work for many) that honors every last one of the country’s chief executives. In 1972, however, the ads had a singular focus: Washington’s Birthday. (For those curious, USA Today’s Mike Snider offers a solid explanation of how a day in honor of George Washington evolved into Presidents’ Day.)

Of course, this being a music-oriented blog, the section most of interest to me is the Entertainment section…but, aside from the ads, there’s little in way of the day’s rock, pop and soul offerings. No concert previews or reviews, no rating of records, though there are adverts for upcoming concerts—including an afternoon delight with David Cassidy at the Spectrum Theater!

And, with that, here is today’s Top 5: February 20th, 1972 (based on the charts for 2/19/72 over at Weekly Top 40). They aren’t all upper-echelon hits, but noteworthy achievements all the same.

1) “Without You” by Nilsson. Rising from No. 3, the No. 1 song for the week is this tasty cover of the Badfinger song, which first appeared on that group’s 1970 No Dice album. Since, it’s been covered many times, including by Ray Conniff and the Singers, Jim Nabors, and Heart, and became a mega-hit for Mariah Carey in 1994.

2) “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. After spending one week atop the pop charts, Al Green’s classic tune falls to No. 2. Rolling Stone ranked it the 60th greatest song of all time in a 2004 countdown. Tina Turner later covered it, of course, though her rendition (released in the U.S. in early 1984) only reached No. 26.

3) “Anticipation” by Carly Simon. Simon should have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame long ago, but my hunch is that Jann Wenner and friends blocked her entry in the past due to this song, which reaches its pinnacle at No. 13, being used in a Heinz Ketchup commercial. That said, it is a flat-out great song—one of my favorites by Carly, in fact—and I love the below performance (from the 1971 ABC TV special Good Vibrations).

4) “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young. In its third week on the charts, this future No. 1 single jumps 12 spots to land at No. 27. Recorded in Nashville, it features Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor—who were both in town to appear on Johnny Cash’s TV show—on background vocals. Here he is performing it on the BBC’s In Concert series almost a full year earlier, on Feb. 23, 1971.

5) “A Horse With No Name” by America. Debuting on the charts at No. 84, this future No. 1 hit sounds so much like a Neil Young song that, according to Jimmy McDonough’s Neil biographyShakey, no less than Neil’s dad, Scott Young, called his son to congratulate him on his new single. (Sound-alike or not, it is a great tune.)

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